Three men are lounging around a table. All of them are relaxed. All of them smile a lot. The talk is nonstop. And they all fairly bristle with energy.
John W. Welch, known as "Jack" everywhere but on paper where a legal signature is required, has always been a go-getter. In the BYU Honors Program reading room as an undergraduate, he used to trail around yards of typing sheets taped together on which he was working out the intricate patterning of Book of Mormon chiasms. Students who didn't avoid him when they saw him coming were riveted by his intense analysis and bulldozer persuasiveness and were not surprised when he later published the first scholarly piece demonstrating that that now widelyknown system of Hebraic prosody was not only present in the Book of Mormon but provided a convincing hallmark of that scripture's Near East origins.
Scholarship was Jack's first love, but a hard look at the economic requirements for the scholar's life persuaded him to get a law degree (at Duke University). Later as a specialist in federal tax law for a prominent Los Angeles firm, he realized that a tax-exempt organization to support scholarly studies on scripture-related topics was feasible. Meanwhile he continued his research, publishing several articles and preparing a book for publication, while also coordinating the annual Welch Lecture Series at BYU. In 1979 he set up the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) in California with the help of Lew Cramer and Clark Waddoups, two other LDS attorneys who still serve with him on the board of directors of FARMS. When Jack moved to Provo in 1980 to join the faculty of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU. new opportunities for FARMS developed. (He and his wife, Jean Sutton, are the parents of four children.)
John Sorenson, chairman of BYU's Department of anthropology, has a history of unrelenting inquisitiveness about the Book of Mormon. It began when as a missionary in the Cook Islands he wondered a bit about the "Hagoth Story" and then became a student of M. Wells Jakeman, Sidney Sperry and Hugh Nibley, who taught him that there were lively questions to be asked, at least. Over decades of teaching and applying anthropology in industry he continued his avocational concern with the relation between the scriptures and archaeological and related research. His concern has focussed on Mesoamerican culture history on which he has published a score of items, although other interests range from the study of Mormon culture to psychological anthropology. He and his wife, Kathryn Richards, are parents of eight sons. John serves FARMS as chairman of the Book of Mormon-New World Research Committee.
Kirk Magleby, FARMS' manager, has been responsible for setting up a solid accounting and circulation system for the organization. Currently in private industry in Utah Valley, Kirk's interest in scriptural scholarship enlivened his major in Latin American Studies at BYU where he received his degree in 1976. He was a part-time research assistant for Paul Cheesman in the Religious Studies Center. He and his wife, Shannon Savage, have three children.
If there's a "core" at FARMS, they're it, but of course they are aided by many other volunteers. At work with each other, it's obvious that they're old sparring partners, sharing the same standards of evidence and interest areas, appreciating the individual expertise each one brings and forming, just by being together, a small community of scholars.